NT Storage Requirements: Market Analysis

Posted on April 01, 1998

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NT Storage Requirements: Market Analysis

Thomas Lahive

Dataquest

As we approach the release date of NT 5.0, debate over NT`s storage capabilities is heating up. From a storage perspective, NT 4.0 lacks the capabilities to support the enterprise. Drawbacks include:

- Limited support for large numbers of disks

- Lack of Unix-level systems/storage management capability

- Poor storage device recognition

For the storage enhancements in NT 5.0, however, Microsoft partnered with a variety of third parties to provide more robust I/O functionality. The new architecture will reportedly ship later this year, though Dataquest believes it will not be generally available until 1999.

Several components enhance the NT 5.0 storage architecture. (For details, see the Cover Report in the March issue, "NT 5.0 Boosts Enterprise Storage Management.")

NT 5.0 is expected to offer unlimited attach points and to include load balancing and check-disk functionality. In contrast, NT 4.0 only addresses 24 entities, consisting of logical units (LUNs) or physical storage devices.

Microsoft partnered with Veritas Software to develop a volume manager that provides

functionality similar to high-end Unix systems.

Enhancements include the ability to change stripe sets without rebooting the system and a new graphical user interface to better manage stripe sets.

NT 5.0 will include Microsoft Removable Storage Manager (formerly called NT Media Services), developed primarily by HighGround Systems. MRSM will offer a standard driver and more robust APIs for storage management software. In addition, HighGround is expected to provide extensions for ISVs that will enhance and eventually "network-enable" MRSM functions across multiple systems.

The basic hierarchical storage management (HSM) framework for NT 5.0 was developed by Avail Systems, which was purchased first by Wang Laboratories and later by Eastman Software. The new HSM benefits will be server-independent, allowing users to manage storage environments from a common console. The embedded HSM code is a scaled-down version of the full-function product available directly from Eastman.

Clusters and SANs

NT servers will be able to support more mission-critical applications because clusters will provide higher performance and availability. Critical to the success of clusters is the adoption of Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) and the adoption of storage/ system-area networks (SANs).

Microsoft`s clustering strategy will be implemented in two phases. In phase one, two servers will be clustered; in the event of a server failure, the "twin system" will be able to access the capacity of the failed server. In phase two, more than two servers will be connected for improved performance.

An emerging architecture, SAN consists of a network switch or hub that connects multiple server and storage devices. Dataquest believes SANs are key to NT`s acceptance in the midrange market. We have identified three phases of SAN development (see Table 1); however, we do not expect load balancing, data sharing, and volume management capabilities to be available until late 1998 or early 1999.

Systems Vendors Dominate

Historically, NT storage requirements have been met with internal arrays with average capacities of less than 20GB. Table 2 identifies NT storage requirements by site size.

Systems vendors dominate storage acquisitions at small and medium-size sites. The majority of sites can be satisfied with internal storage configurations. Therefore, it is difficult to justify the added cost associated with external arrays.

However, because clusters will enable new levels of data sharing, we expect the market for external arrays to pick up significantly once clusters gain acceptance. External arrays are easy to implement, are comparatively inexpensive, and support more capacity than internal arrays.

The large sites outlined in Table 2 have an average $400,000 server configuration and associated $210,000 storage requirement. External storage in these environments will consist of two types. Type 1 will have multiple low-cost and limited-function external disk arrays, each typically priced under $50,000. Type-2 arrays will provide significantly more functionality. The biggest difference between these two classes will be the level of software functionality, service offerings, and performance/capacity scaling. Type-2 arrays are similar to enterprise-class disk arrays sold in the Unix market.

The market for external NT storage is just starting to take off, driven in part by Compaq aggressively promoting its new Fibre Channel subsystems. According to Dataquest estimates, Compaq held more than a 35% share of the $4 billion+ NT disk subsystem market in 1997. Compaq will leverage its NT and Netware market dominance in order to grow its external disk array product line and to gain additional market share within this segment.

Though Compaq will be able to gain market share within the Type-1 disk subsystem market, the Type-2 (or enterprise) segment will be a difficult challenge, despite the acquisition of Digital. Type-2 arrays will often be deployed in environments that require data sharing between NT and Unix systems.

Therefore, Dataquest believes disk subsystem suppliers that offer heterogeneous operating system support will be positioned for growth within this segment. Such companies include Andataco, Clariion, ECCS, EMC, IBM, MTI, Storage Computer, Symbios (which was recently acquired by Adaptec), and Zitel. Table 3 outlines relative market opportunity for the NT storage sector.

Because Unix servers offer greater clustering and data-sharing capabilities with mainframes and NT servers, the need for enterprise-level disk subsystems will continue. At the same time, as low-priced NT servers take over server market share, the commodity-oriented subsystems market will explode. Capturing the growth of each segment requires entirely different product, support, and distribution offerings. No one storage or server supplier will be able to capture market share dominance in both segments.

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Thomas Lahive is a senior industry analyst, specializing in server storage and RAID, at Dataquest, a market research firm in San Jose, CA. Lahive works in the company`s Westborough, MA, offices.


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